Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOHN MASEFIELD, by AMY SHERMAN BRIDGMAN



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JOHN MASEFIELD, by            
First Line: God said, and frowned, as he looked on shropshire
Last Line: You are not sleeping in those cruel hills!
Subject(s): Masefield, John (1878-1967)


I

God said, and frowned, as He looked on Shropshire clay:
"Alone, 'twont do; composite, would I make
This man-child rare; 'twere well, methinks, to take
A handful from the Stratford tomb, and weigh
A few of Shelley's ashes; Bunyan may
Contribute, too, and, for my sweet Son's sake,
I'll visit Avalon; then, let me slake
The whole with Wyclif-water from the Bay.

A sailor, he! Too godly, though, I fear;
Offset it with tobacco! Next, I'll find
Hedge-roses, star-dust, and a vagrant's mind;
His mother's heart now let me breathe upon;
When west winds blow, I'll whisper in her ear:
'Apocalypse awaits him; call him John!'"

HIS PORTRAIT

II

A Man of Sorrows! with such haunted eyes,
I trow, the Master looked across the lake, --
Looked from the Judas-heart, so soon to make
Of Him the world's historic sacrifice;
Moreover, as I gaze, do more arise;
Great souls, great pallid ghosts of pain, who wake
And wander yet; all, weary men who brake
Their hearts; all hemlock-drunk, with growing wise:
Hudson adrift; Defoe; the Wandering Jew;
Tannhauser; Faust; Andrea; phantoms, all,
In Masefield's eyes you lodge; and to the wall
I turn you, -- hand a-tremble, -- lest you make
Of mine own stricken eyes a mirror, too,
Wherein the sad world's sadder for your sake.

HIS "DAUBER"

III

O Masefield's "Dauber!" You, who, being dead,
Yet speak: heroic, dauntless, flaming soul,
Too suddenly snuffed out! Here take fresh toll
Of cognizance, and, in your ocean bed,
Serenely rest, assured that who has read
What you would fain have pictured of the Pole
Would gladly match your part against the whole
Of many a modern artist, Paris-bred.

And more than this: if you, indeed, are his,
Then, by a dual truth, he, too, is yours;
For, marked and credited by what endures,
Were it the only thing which bears his name,
(O deathless Soul, I speak you true in this!)
"The Dauber" has brought Masefield to his fame.

HIS "GALLIPOLI"

IV

"Small wonder," speaks my pensive self, "that he
Whose passion 'tis to sing of men who fail, --
(Belabored, broken by The Unseen Flail)
Small wonder that he makes Gallipoli
His fervent text, for could there be
A costlier failure in Earth's shuddering tale?
Think of heroic Sulva's bloody swale;
Of Anzac's tortured thirst and agony!"
But, as I read, protesting voices cry: "Not we,
Not we, who fell among the daffodils,
Who conquered Death among those blistered hills,
And found our glory after mortal pain;
Not we who failed and lost Gallipoli;
The sad, strange failure theirs who mourn in vain!"

HIS MEED

V

So, Masefield, have your royal words once more
Called forth the praise of men, where praise is due;
Your great elegiac, tragically true,
Must leave all Britain prouder than before;
And, spite of all that breaking hearts deplore,
And all that anguished consciences must rue,
One arrowed gladness surely pierces through
From London's centre to Canadian shore:

When England, sobbing, mourns Gallipoli,
When warm tears flow for Rupert Brooke
And all the splendid Youth her error took
As hostage from the fields of daffodils,
Let this a present, living solace be:
You are not sleeping in those cruel hills!





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